Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hanseatische Gummiwerke

As all possible flights out of O'Hare are canceled, I've had to put off the UVA seminar until next week. I must say I'm not entirely displeased at this outcome, seeing as the weather in the midwest is pretty dire right now. We have been subjected to a considerable amount of "wintry mix" -- the sidewalks are all covered in inches of ice-encrusted snow of a strange plasticky consistency -- and I believe it is supposed to get worse tonight.

Meanwhile, an article about German condom manufacturer Julius Fromm, whose enterprise was taken over by the Nazis. (I like that the Berlin Review of Books abbreviates as brb.)
Fromm improved on the manufacturing technique. He used glass moulds, which were mounted on carrier frames and dipped into a vat of rubber solution liquefied with gasoline, benzene and tetrachloromethane. After two dippings, a thin rubber skin formed around the glass moulds and this was then vulcanised in special ovens with sulphur vapours. The condoms were dusted with a lubricant, rolled off the glass moulds and tested by inflation with compressed air, inverted and packaged. Fromms’ condoms were sturdy yet elastic, durable enough to be warehoused and transported for long distances. In fact this technical process of condom manufacturing has remained largely unchanged, with the exception of automation and the replacement of the benzene treatment with a latex process in the 1960s. Using a similar setup, Fromm also made surgical finger cots, rubber gloves, pacifiers and teats for baby bottles – another sound business move given the rising birth rate in Germany.

After the war, Fromm's trademark, at least in West Germany, devolved to the Bremen-based company Hanseatische Gummiwerke, which is a pretty great name.

Alas, the book is unlikely to be of wide interest; the reviewer ruefully notes that "Aly and Sontheimer do not seem to be that interested in condoms."


Jenny Davidson said...

Just as well not to be stuck in an airport...

A link for your other blog (via the Rumpus):


Sarang said...

Wonderful (though _quite_ sad), thanks! I am not sure I would even have made it to the airport, frankly. Fortunately they had a free seminar slot next week, so I could change rather than cancel my tickets.